December 6, 2022

Malagacy faces stern test stretching out in Rebel

Malagacy looks to follow in the hoofsteps of stablemate One Liner by taking a Kentucky Derby (G1) prep at Oaklawn (Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography)

As was the case in last month’s Southwest (G3) over the same track, trainer Todd Pletcher has an intriguing three-year-old stretching out to two turns for his stakes debut in Saturday’s $900,000 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

Things worked out splendidly for Pletcher and Co. in the Southwest, when One Liner drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths with most of the rest far behind. Pletcher’s Rebel entry is Malagacy, who has won twice at Gulfstream by a combined margin of 22 lengths, both of which were in sprints.

Malagacy showed plenty of speed in his two victories, which he will have to harness to see out the Rebel’s 1 1/16-mile distance. One Liner did so effectively, and Malagacy’s goal is even more imperative with the likes of American Anthem and Uncontested also likely to show early zip.

With Mastery sadly out of Kentucky Derby (G1) contention, American Anthem now assumes a larger role among Bob Baffert’s classic prospects. The son of 2012 Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Bodemeister narrowly missed to Gormley in the January 7 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita after setting a challenging pace in the slop. Although Gormley did not flatter the form in last week’s San Felipe (G2), American Anthem arguably ran the better race in the Sham given the set-up and his relative inexperience.

Uncontested enjoyed an uncontested lead in winning the $150,000 Smarty Jones in the slop back in January, but was not nearly as effective on a fast track in the Southwest, where he caved readily after coming under fire approaching the stretch. The Wayne Catalano trainee is back for another try after posting two recent bullet works.

The main contenders most likely to be stalking the pace are Royal Mo, recent winner of the Robert B. Lewis (G3) in his stakes debut for John Shirreffs; Petrov, runner-up in the Smarty Jones and Southwest for Ron Moquett; and Untrapped, second in the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds for Steve Asmussen.

Deep closers looking to improve on their respective third- and fourth-place efforts in the Southwest are Lookin At Lee and Silver Dust, who were separated by a half-length at the finish. Longshots Silver Bullion, Sonneteer, and Appalachian Gem round out the field.

The Rebel is the feature on a blockbuster 11-race program at Oaklawn. As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, Derby qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 will be awarded to the top four finishers.